We've all seen them. The Pinterest accounts full of coloring pages. Beautiful illustrations with absolutely no source information in the pin description. You find a few pictures you'd absolutely love to color and think, "Huh, if only this user went the extra mile and included the source. I'd really love to color more pages by this artist!" Well here's the thing...
Thousands of "Free" Coloring Pages Found Online are Stolen From Unattributed Artists Who Were Likely Already Giving Them Away
Now you might read this and say, "Well if they were free to begin does it really matter whether I got it directly from the artist or not?" At first glance the answer is "No". Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, The illustrator initially offered the piece to the coloring community for free (the owners of these Pinterest robots are too cheap to pay for coloring pages). It's likely they created them in the hope that they could bring joy to a group of people, and could never be angry with a colorist who's only wrong was printing out an unattributed page. But over the past year with the rise in adult coloring awareness, this practice has increased to the point where it is commonplace, and it's going to have some negative effects on the coloring community as a whole.
Illustrators are losing the drive to create new free pages for colorists
Think about how many of these unattributed free pages must get downloaded and colored each and every day. I'm sure many of the library, nursing home, and medical care coloring groups that have started popping up have very limited budgets. With a whole group of colorists and minimal funding, your only alternative is to turn to free pages, likely printed from one of these Pinterest accounts. The diversity is amazing too. Whereas individual artists' selections can be limited or tailored to a specific style, on Pinterest there are so many options, you can do a little bit of scrolling and come out with a page you absolutely love.
But now think about this: Did you ever get a chance to let that illustrator know that their picture spoke to you from amidst thousands of others on Pinterest? That out of all those illustrations, you chose their amazing coloring page? Do you think that unattributed artist knows that their illustration just kept a group of Dialysis patients from having to focus on their illness for hours on end? That they were actually able to smile and enjoy their treatment to some degree? Do you think that artist knew that they made a difference in someone's life?
The answer is "No". The unattributed illustrator provided a wealth of happiness, and none of it came back to them. And that's OK, they knew this was about giving and not receiving, they didn't expect anything. They'll still put out another free page next week, and the week after too. But by that third week it's starting to feel a bit pointless, so maybe the next free page goes out a few days later. And then a little bit longer before the next, and longer, and longer, and eventually they stop, because no one seems to care anymore. People are willing to shell out tens (even hundreds) of dollars on the best colored pencils for coloring books, but a few bucks for a coloring page is too much to ask?
The longer this practice goes on, the fewer and fewer original free pages we'll see online. And it doesn't only mean fewer free pages; letting thieves get away with this validates their actions and encourages them to get bolder.
Coloring Page Thieves are Stealing Free Art and Selling it Back to You
There are no words...
Maybe you've heard of Fanen Coloring Books. If you haven't, you can cruise over to their Facebook page, only to find the smoldering crater of ash and dust that remains.
You see, Fanen Coloring Books thought it was a good idea to steal some pictures from WelshPixie, a Welsh coloring page artist, print a couple thousand copies, and sell them as their own.Well, long story short, she found out. After getting stonewalled by Fanen when asking for an explanation, WelshPixie took to social media to let the colorists of the world know what happened. The response was overwhelming. Fanen was bombarded by an outraged public, and quickly changed their mind about talking with WelshPixie.
Now I respect her for giving them the benefit of the doubt and looking for an amicable solution, but the "we bought these pages from another artist" excuse is one I've heard before. It's a common excuse when it comes to copyright infringement. If Fanen was truly also a victim, why was their Facebook page removed, and why is there no longer any trace of them online? It points to a guilty conscience.
Still, the silver lining in this story is the amazing response from the colorist community. They banded together to stand up for what was right, and I think it's safe to say they succeeded and then some. This shows that together we can help prevent coloring copyright infringement. If it's escalated to the point where Fanen or any other company can actually think that they can get away with what they tried, the problem has already gotten out of hand.
What Can I Do to Prevent Coloring Page Theft?
The easiest thing you can do is simply support the artists. Every once in a while, remind your favorite illustrator that they make some killer coloring pages. That the art means something to you, and their work does bring the joy that they intended it to. Check DeviantArt and find artists local to your area and support them by coloring their work. Support the Johanna Basfords of the world whose work we know and love, and support the unknown art student who just started designing coloring pages last week. SPintersetupport, support, support.
And also boycott unattributed coloring pages on Pinterest and other similar sites.
I know this is asking a lot, as currently there is really no better source for such a large and diverse selection of coloring pages. But it's the least you can do. There are plenty of Pinterest accounts that do provide proper attributions, and plenty of illustrators who provide new free pages on their personal websites and social media accounts. Stay strong, and know that your extra effort is helping prevent the collapse of adult coloring as we know it 🙂
ColorGaia is Creating a Database of Free, Artist-Attributed Coloring Pages and Needs Your Help
UPDATE: Check out a preview of our ColorGaia's coloring page database here.
In an effort to help solve this problem, ColorGaia is attempting to create a collection of free coloring pages with proper artist attribution and links to the remainder of their work. If you know of a source for properly-attributed free coloring pages, we encourage you to tell us about it using the form below. You can also provide your email address to sign up for our newsletter - we will keep you updated on the status of our database and let you know when it is open to the public.
With a shared effort by all of us, we can create a centralized collection that could provide the diversity of Pinterest without stepping on the backs of hardworking and generous illustrators.
(You can just provide your email if you don't have a specific message!)
Want to help the cause even more? Spread the word to other colorists by sharing this article.